Leketta Collier, owner of and photographer for LP Forever Memories, will take your photo and make you look beautiful .... if you let her.
You have may have seen her at numerous events around town with her camera in her hand and people coming over to her to be in one of her pictures. Everybody loves to have their picture taken, right? Well, almost everybody.
“There was an experience when I first started out where the grandmother of the kid who was having a birthday party was like, “No! I don't want no picture taken!' I kinda helped her out and was gentle with her and said, 'How about just one picture?' and she just warmed to me,” Collier remembers. “I worked with her all the way to the end. Soon, she was like, 'Your pictures are just awesome. I never smiled or try to look nice in my pictures before.' But because I was so nice to her and I coached her and I made her feel comfortable, she had a transformation. In the end, she wanted to be in all kinds of pictures. Her kids couldn't believe she was in the pictures because she had never wanted to be in them before. That felt very good for me.”
In 2011, Collier started LP Forever Memories Photography and she now covers weddings, birthdays, women's conferences, dinner banquets, concerts, galas, back-to-school events with the Boys and Girls Club, engagement parties, breast cancer awareness events, 608TV functions, movie premieres, fund-raisers, graduations, homecoming, prom, senior portraits, sorority events, Independence Day festivals, and more.
Collier's father was also a photographer and vidoegrapher at family gatherings, so growing up she always kept a camera or video recorder in her hand. Her photojournalism career started while she was doing a Walt Disney World college internship for 6 months in Orlando, Fla., when her old camera suddenly broke on her. “I had to purchase a camera and I went to the merchandise store where I bought a Nikon D-40 and I paid 40 bucks for it,” Collier remembers. “I came back home and was taking pictures in the community and at church events for Miracles of Life. A close friend asked me how much I would charge to take pictures at a wedding and it all started from there.”
In January of 2011, Collier updated her camera significantly to a D-3100 and started to get serious about picture-taking. “I continued to take pictures at the church and at family events and in the community,” Collier says. “I started to do much more freelancing and got different gigs by word of mouth.”
What is the secret to getting great photos?
“There's no secret. I'm just very observant of people …. I'm always watching,” Collier says. “I try to get the unique pictures; I don't necessarily like the pictures where people are standing shoulder to shoulder. I enjoy taking different kinds of pictures and I'm always looking for a nice shot — a shot that has a story behind the actual photo.”
Collier takes so many photos that she can sometimes feel uncomfortable when she doesn't have her camera with her.
“It will feel strange not to have a camera .... if I have a great photo opportunity but no camera to take the picture with it,” she says. “But my camera is pretty expensive and you have to be careful where you take it —you don't want it to be damaged. So, I can't carry it around a lot. But I try to make sure that the lens on my phone camera is really good — I can at least get that. But it's not the same.”
She takes 300 or 400 pictures at every event and than narrows it down to the best ones. “The most shots I've taken at a wedding has been 1,000 pictures,” Collier says.
Is it a struggle for her to make a living taking pictures? “Not really.... with me, I make it work. I'm always networking on Facebook. I'm always reaching out,” she says.
Collier says that the favorite part of what she does is making other people happy. “That means a lot to me and it makes me love my job,” she says. “It's a pretty sociable job, and I like that, too. I look forward to going to work all the time. For me, it's fun. I believe I've found my passion. I look forward to waking up and going to an event or even planning an event. I love it.”
Collier studied Meeting and Event Management at Madison College so she can also help you plan your event, too. “I've always been the one who liked to plan events and gatherings,” Collier says. “I enjoy that.
“I've learned a lot on my own pretty much from just being an entrepreneur all of my life,” she adds. “I've learned how to sell my product — which was pictures. I'm very observant of how other photographers take pictures and do what they do, too.”
One place where she got to meet and observe some very talented photographers was the ESSENCE Festival last summer in New Orleans. She didn't have a press pass, but that didn't stop her from taking pictures of some of music's biggest and brightest stars.
“I had my backpack and my camera and I walked past a group of ladies — 6 or 7 of them,” Collier remembers. “A security guard was at the gate and said, “Ain't you with them?” and I said, “Suuuure...' I went back to the VIP area with 7 or 8 other photographers. The event was four hours and I got some great photos of celebrities. I took a lot of photos!”
Collier got to meet all kinds of amazing people and was able to get back the second day doing the same thing.
“They let me in the next day with a ‘plus-one,’ so I was able to bring [local radio deejay] Big Mike along with me,” she remembers. “He came along and he loved it. We went right back to the VIP area.”
Collier's immediate goal is to continue to grow her business and to get in the Madison wedding bridal shower book. It costs a lot of money to get in, but is worth it in the end because it hooks Simpson up with a whole new audience.
“My long-term goal is to network with other major photographers and see if they could become my mentor and try to get back to the big Essence and Jet Magazine events,” she says. “I would love to do special events with celebrities. I would love to travel and go to different states and capture those pictures — Washington D.C., New York City, the big award shows. There's a whole world outside of Madison that I would love to see more.”
If you're in need of a photographer or event coordinator and are looking for reasonable prices, keep LP Forever Memories in mind. If you have any questions or want more information, e-mail Collier at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.lpforevermemories.com.